Lamberson Mill to be Razed

Colon Landmark Is Being Razed

August 1941: “The old time waterpower mills which were so closely associated with community life in the pioneer days, are gradually passing out, and only a few of the scores of mills which once stood are left for operating purposes. A few of these mills may be found is southwestern Michigan, but generally checkup reveals that these mills are operated on a much different schedule than in the old days when “flap-jacks” were made from pure buckwheat flour, and the batter known as “starter” was distributed among the neighbors and kept on hand from day to day as long as the weather would permit. Compounds today on the market enable the housewife to prepare flap-jacks in a few minutes and buckwheat is grown on a lesser scale each year. In the village of Colon, besides a river and several beautiful lakes, there is an old mill to which the village owns its beginning. Standing between a quiet mill stream and Swan creek, just on the edge of the business district, this three story structure has been a picturesque landmark in the village for over a hundred years. In the year 1830, Loransi Schelhous, looking for a water power site, found the one here, went to Ohio and manufactured mill irons, and returned to Colon in the spring and damned Swan creek, hauled planks from Brunson and built a saw mill. Two years later, he began cutting lumber. This property was then sold to a Dr. Isaac Vooorhies in 1836. he built the mill which stands today. William Eck came from Three Rivers, dressed the millstones and ground the first grist. The mill, operating on three “run” of stones became busier each year, and in 1875, a fourth “run” of stones was added. In 1877, the Lamberson family became associated with the mill and in the year 1914, Frank D. Lamberson, who had been with the plant since 1888, became the sole owner and continued to operate under the firm name his father had used, C. A. Lamberson & Son. He successfully operated the mill manufactured wheat and buckwheat flour and ground grist until the undermined flume was washed out in 1934.  Operations were then discontinued and Mr. Lamberson retired to enjoy his home where he and Mrs., Lamberson and two sons had lived for several years across from the mill, just between the damn and the mill race. Eli Dane who was in the employ of Mr. Lamberson for many years, died about six months ago. The building has had exceptional care throughout the years and one would hesitate to believe its age,. Built of heavy timbers, some of them from one foot to 16 inches square, and of great length and weight, it took scores of men to raise them into position while workers high in the air fitted the mortised ends and drove the pins which fastened them. The roof rests on a series wooden beams which are heavy and are so rigidly interlocked that there are no signs of sagging despite the 102 years the frame has stood. The elevator is fitted with what is known as a “Dutch” door, something seldom seen in this art of the country. This is a large specially made door, cut horizontally in half and hung so that the lower portion may be kept closed. The reason for such a door was to keep out domestic animals and fowls which were allowed to run loosed in those days. The latch is made to resemble a long iron bar. A conspicuous and interesting feature on the front of the building is a triangular projection, conforming to lines of the gable, under which was the pulley for lifting bags of grain from wagons to the bins on the upper floors. It bears the date of the completion of the building … 1839. Colon residents, both young and old are going to miss this landmark as the building has been sold and the process of tearing it down has already been started. The machinery was sold and disposed of several months ago. Mr. Lamberson has made no announcement as to what will be done with the land site, but after it is cleaned up, there will be some beautiful scenery for the village as Swan creek and the mill stream are surrounded by beautiful weeping willow trees.”  Your local historical society has the peak with the date attached. All that remains except for photos.

Abbott Co. Puffaroo Lawsuit

The Abbott Magic Company “Puffaroo” Lawsuit

 

PETER A. LARRAMENDY et al., Respondents, v. JOSEPH N. MYRES et al., Defendants; PERCY ABBOTT et al., Appellants.

COUNSEL

Jack Schnider and Robert J. Sullivan for Appellants.

James C. Hollingsworth and Hammons, Willard & Todd for Respondents.

OPINION

WOOD (Parker), J.

Action for damages resulting from burns received by the minor plaintiff when a smoke-producing device, used by her in a dancing act, set fire to her dress. In a trial without a jury, plaintiffs obtained judgment against defendants Abbott and Bordner, individually, and against defendants Abbott and Bordner doing business as Abbott’s Magic Novelty Company. Those defendants appeal from the judgment.

Upon motion of plaintiffs the action was dismissed as to defendants Myres, Groves, and high school district. Motions for nonsuits were granted as to defendants Francine Lanteri, Jolene Lanteri Jenkins, and George Boston.

Defendants Francine Lanteri and Jolene Lanteri Jenkins, known as the Lanteri sisters, conducted a dancing school in Ventura Deanna Larramendy, plaintiff herein, 12 years of age, was a pupil in that school who had been taken ballet and toe dancing lessons about two years. On April 15, 1950, the Lanteri sisters staged a dancing exhibition in the auditorium of the Ventura Junior College wherein several pupils of the dancing school participated. Deanna was chosen for the leading role–to play the part of Persephone in a ballet, based on the myth of the seasons, known as “The Underground Queen.” It was a part of her role, while dancing, to step on or trip a smoke-making device and thereby cause a puff or cloud of smoke to arise from the floor. Then, out of the smoke or “illusion,” Pluto would arrive on the stage.

Francine Lanteri read, in a catalogue or trade magazine “for stage props,” an advertisement regarding a smoke-making device known as “Abbott’s Pufferoo.” She wrote to Abbott’s Magic Novelty Company, located on Sunset Boulevard [126 Cal.App.2d 638] in Los Angeles, and ordered the smoke-making device sent to her by mail C.O.D. Thereafter she received the device by mail C.O.D. Defendants Abbott and Bordner operated Abbott’s Magic Novelty Company located at 6505 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. In October, 1949, an advertisement bearing the title “Abbott’s Pufferoo” was placed in a magazine, known as “Genii,” by Abbott’s Magic Novelty Company, Colon, Michigan.

The device was received in evidence, but it has not been forwarded to this court. It has not been described in any of the briefs or in the reporter’s transcript. It seems from statements made by witnesses in explaining how the device was operated (and from written directions which were with the device) that the device consisted of: a receptacle into which explosive powder was poured; a 4 1/2 volt battery; a filament wire which extended horizontally through the middle of the powder receptacle and was connected with one end of the battery and a metal piece above a contact post; and another wire which was connected with the other end of the battery and with the contact post. In the package in which the device was received, there was a bottle of explosive powder and also a piece of paper containing directions for operating the device. The writing which was on that paper is set forth below. fn. 1 After [126 Cal.App.2d 639] the receptacle was half filled with powder–to the place where the powder touched the filament wire, and after the device was placed on the floor, the device was operated by stepping on the metal piece (above the contact post) which contact lighted the filament wire which ignited the powder. There was evidence that the device would not work if the receptacle was more than one-half filled with powder and the powder covered the filament wire. (It was stated that if the powder covered the wire, the wire would not ignite the powder because the powder would absorb the heat.)

Prior to the production of the play, there were three rehearsals in which the smoke device was used. On one of those occasions the device did not work when Deanna stepped on it. On the two occasions when it worked, Deanna did not see any flame coming from it. Francine Lanteri did not see any flame come from the device when it was used at rehearsals. During rehearsals Deanna wore shorts or tights. During the play she wore a ballet costume which was a flimsy dress with a full skirt made of six or seven layers of tarlatan or tulle. The bottom hem of the skirt was about 9 inches from the floor, and the diameter of the skirt at the bottom hem was about 3 feet.

The device was placed on the stage for use by Deanna. During the play when she stepped on the metal contact piece there was a puff of smoke, and a flame from the device set fire to her dress and she was severely burned.

The court found, in part, as follows: The device was manufactured, sold, and supplied by defendants Abbott, Bordner, and Abbott and Bordner doing business as Abbot’s Magic Novelty Company. The device was designed, manufactured, sold, and supplied for the purpose of emitting a puff of smoke and creating an illusion in the staging of performances such as said ballet performance. The devise was imminently, inherently, and manifestly dangerous in that in addition to producing a puff of smoke it produced a large flash of flame when operated according to the instructions furnished by said defendants, and when so operated it was likely to cause dress material such as that worn by Deanna to become ignited, all of which was known or should have been known by said defendants. At said performance Deanna stepped on the device in accordance with directions accompanying the device, and as a proximate result thereof a flash of flame was emitted which ignited the dress and caused it to burst into flame and severely burn Deanna. The device was dangerous for its [126 Cal.App.2d 640] intended use, namely, that of creating an illusion, and said danger was known or should have been known to said defendants. The device was used pursuant to directions which accompanied the device. Said defendants neglected to reasonably warn and inform Deanna of the dangerous propensities of said device. The only warning and information given to Deanna was that set forth in said directions, and said warning and information advised her only as to the danger from smoke and not as to the danger of fire. Deanna was not contributorily negligent. There was no intervening causation or negligence of a third person that would relieve said defendants from liability.

Appellants contend that they owed no legal duty to plaintiffs and that consequently there was no liability on the part of appellants. They argue that there was no evidence of any personal relationship between them and plaintiffs; that the device was purchased by the Lanteri sisters, and that the purchase involved no oral representations and was based on an advertisement. [1] “The courts of this state are committed to the doctrine that the duty of care exists in the absence of privity of contract not only where the article manufactured is inherently dangerous but also where it is reasonably certain, if negligently manufactured or constructed, to place life and limb in peril.” (Sheward v. Virtue, 20 Cal.2d 410, 412 [126 P.2d 345].) “It is universally recognized that a manufacturer or seller of an article which is inherently and imminently dangerous to human life or health, or which, although not dangerous in itself, becomes so when applied to its intended use in the usual and customary manner, is liable to any person, whether the purchaser or a third person, who, without fault on his part, sustains an injury which is the natural and proximate result of negligence in the manufacture or sale of the article, if the injury might have been reasonably anticipated. Liability does not rest on the ground of warranty; nor does liability depend on privity of contracts, but rather on a breach of a public duty owing to all persons into whose hands the article may lawfully come, and by whom it may be used, and whose lives may be endangered thereby, to exercise care and caution commensurate with the peril and not to expose human life to danger by carelessness or negligence.” (65 C.J.S., pp. 621, 622, 623, ? 100.) [2] In Restatement, Torts, page 1039, section 388, it is said: “One who supplies directly or through a third person a chattel for another to use, is subject to liability to those [126 Cal.App.2d 641] whom the supplier should expect to use the chattel with the consent of the other or to be in the vicinity of its probable use, for bodily harm caused by the use of the chattel in the manner for which and by a person for whose use it is supplied, if the supplier (a) knows, or from facts known to him should realize, that the chattel is or is likely to be dangerous for the use for which it is supplied; (b) and has no reason to believe that those for whose use the chattel is supplied will realize its dangerous condition; and (c) fails to exercise reasonable care to inform them of its dangerous condition or of the facts which make it likely to be so.” [3] The court found, as above stated, that the device was inherently dangerous. That finding was supported by the evidence. The device, which was operated by igniting powder with a lighted electric wire, caused a fire-producing explosion. The court also found, upon sufficient evidence, that defendants neglected to reasonably warn of the dangerous propensities of said device. The written directions, which were with the device when it was received, warned: to hold the device away from the face while filling the hole with powder; and to stand back when making contact (when the device is on the floor) so that “puff” will not strike face. There was no warning of danger from fire. There was liability on the part of appellants.

[4] Appellants contend further that the court erred (1) in receiving testimony regarding certain tests of the device which the chief of the fire department of Ventura made prior to the trial and (2) in permitting a demonstration of the operation of the device to be made in the courtroom during the trial. The chief, called as a witness by plaintiffs, testified that prior to the trial he operated the device numerous times by following said directions (which were received with the device), except that he did not use the powder which came with the device; that in those tests he held material, similar to the material of Deanna’s dress, 8 or 10 inches above the device and in each test the fire that was produced was at least 8 inches high and it would ignite anything of a tarlatan-type nature; that a chemist made an analysis of the powder (which came with the device) and he (witness) used powder of the same quality in making the tests. In the courtroom while he was a witness, he operated the device by following said directions and using powder that came with the device. In that test he held tarlatan, which was a part of Deanna’s dress, about 10 inches above the device, and the fire that came from [126 Cal.App.2d 642] the device hit the tarlatan and caused it to smolder or glow but it did not blaze. Appellants argue that the evidence regarding the tests should not have been received because the tests were not made under conditions that were substantially the same as the conditions under which the accident occurred. As to the tests made prior to the trial, there was no competent evidence that the powder used was the same quality as the powder which was received with the device, and the evidence regarding those tests should not have been received. As to the demonstration in the courtroom of the operation of the device, appellants argue that there was no evidence that the draft conditions there were the same as the draft conditions on the stage at the school when the accident occurred. The reception or rejection of evidence, belonging to the class of evidence designated as experiments, “lies largely within the discretion of the trial court, with this limitation–that it must be shown that substantially the same conditions existed [at the time of the experiment as existed at the time of the original occurrence], and further that the evidence shall be of such a character as to aid rather than to confuse the minds of the jurors with collateral matters.” (People v. Ely, 203 Cal. 628, 632-633 [265 P. 818].) The trial court did not err in permitting a demonstration of the operation of the device to be made in the courtroom.

[5] Appellants also contend that the amount of damages awarded was excessive. The judgment was for $52,528.24, being $7,528.24 for special damages, and $45,000 for general damages. The minor plaintiff received first, second, and third degree burns which covered more than 40 per cent of her body. She was in hospitals about seven and one-half months, and in bed at home several months. There were several skin-grafting operations and during those operations she was under a general anesthetic. There were many blood transfusions. Many scars are on her body. The bills for hospital and medical services amounted to $7,028.24, and there was evidence that bills for further treatments would amount to $500. This contention is not sustainable.

The judgment is affirmed. The appeal from the order denying the motion to enter a different judgment is dismissed.

($25,528.54 in 1954 dollars is equal to $448,106.89 in 2012 dollars.)

Take a Bow, Abbott;s 1966

From The Colon Express, August 17, 1966: “Abbott’s Magic Get-Together, the magicians’ Mecca, has convened as is its custom every third week in August. Colon, the Magic Capitol of the World, is pleased as punch and very proud to host our annual visitors.

Percy Abbott evolved the idea of his magic factory in 1933 and ’34. he’d followed his famous father, Henry Abbott, into the show-business world of the magician and traveled all over the world as an entertainer. After he’s married and begun to raise a family, he felt the need to settle permanently, and the production of equipment for magicians gave him the reason to do so.

Colon was fortunate to have been the summer quarters of Harry Blackstone’s troupe. Harry invited Percy here for a vacation, Percy fell in love with a local girl, married, and consequently settled down. So we have the magic factory.

Abbott’s Magic Co. began as a one-man business in a rented room over a grocery store. It grew so fast that Percy needed a partner and a building. Recil Bordner joined forces with him, and they moved into a one-time carriage factory which they painted black and decorated with the white dancing skeletons. In 1938 the old building burned to the ground, so they built a cement block structure on the site and bought some more black paint and drew more skeletons.

In 1948 Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy made a surprise appearance at the Get-Together. One year a real wedding was performed on stage at the Get-Together. When the factory itself became too small to stage the Get-Togethers, they were held in a tent, or out of town. When the new Colon High School in 1961 the Get-Together public shows had found a new home.

Colon has proved to be a good buffer for the inventors of magic paraphernalia. We’re small and so don’t draw so many outside visitors to the factory that work is disrupted, and big enough to supply the business with employees. We’re blasé enough, by now, to take in our stride the assembling of an illusion on the street when it can’t be contained in the building, and yet we’re eager to help make the Get-Together successful.

Abbott’s manufactures some 1,500 items for magicians. It has sheet metal, woodworking, tool and die, metal casting, blacksmith and machine shops and sewing, assembling, chemical, and paint departments. It also has its own print shop for publishing its monthly magic magazine, TOPS, which is strictly for the magician and is sent to magician-subscribers all over the world. The print shop also prints the directions and labels and patter for the company’s products, and the catalog listing the items for sale. There’s an ample showroom with a stage for demonstrating tricks to prospective customers and TOPS editor Neil Foster doubles as chief demonstrator. Small wonder Neil’s one of the best in the business, practicing before his brother magicians all the time!

To say we’re proud of Abbott’s, proud of being the Magic Capital, is an understatement of the first water. We’re “Colon, the Magic Capitol” all in one breath, a distinctive, inventive, humor-loving society of individuals who prefer it all just the way it is. “Happy Anniversary, Recil”

 

Recil Bordner is president and owner. His employees, listed in alphabetical order are:

Glenn Babbs ………………………….Woodworking Dept.

Archie Capman Jr……………………..………..Metal Dept.

Jerry Conklin ……………………….Shipping & Receiving

Eda Mae Cubbernuss …………………………….Secretary

Mary Decker………………………..Sewing & Assembling

Irene Elliott..………………………..Sewing & Assembling

Ray Fillmore…………………………………..Plastic Dept.

Jeanne Foster ………………………………….…..Account

Neil Foster ………………………Editor of TOPS Magazine

Walter Jacob……………………………..……..Metal Dept.

Caroline Merrill…………………………….…Flower Dept.

Fred Merrill………………………………….…..Paint Dept

Gordon Miller…………………….…Shipping & Receiving

Everett Myers………………………….Woodworking Dept.

Ken Murray ……………………………….TOPS Magazine

Dorotha Osborn…………………..…Sewing & Assembling

Marian Pilipick………………………………..…..Secretary

Walter Schroeder………………………………….…Printer

Duke Stern…………………………………..Sales Manager

Bud West………………………………Woodworking Dept.

 

Percy Abbott (1886 – 1960) has become an iconic figure in the world of magic. He is most famous for building a world renown magic manufacturing company from the ground up – Abbott’s Magic Co. The first Abbott’s Magic Get Together was Saturday, Sept. 15, 1934 and was attended by 80 magicians. Percy Abbot appeared at the Get-Together in
1934,1935,1936,1937,1938,1940,1941,1942,1943,1946,1952, and 1955.

 

 

Abbott Magic Co. by Monk Watson

Abbott Magic Novelty Company

 

From the September, 1964 “TOPS’ Magazine. The Profession Touch” by Monk Watson: “So many, too many, years ago, I left Detroit and took to the road in a new (?) type of “Show Business” known a “Mass Selling”. I put my years of selling myself and acts into the new idea of selling a product.

As long as I can remember, I’ve used magic in my shows – not, every week, but I’d say half of my run in Detroit was built around a Professional Magician – or I’d do a quick trick on my own.

So now, how to sell via the magic route. I needed ideas and from whom could I get these ideas and tricks? I recalled a nice guy I had met in Colon about 1927 or 28 – I met him through my good friend of many years, Blackstone. This was Percy Abbott. I had remembered how he had given me a tall pitcher he had made into a Lota – that same night he also gave me the “Six Card Repeat” – the first “Squash”, a large “Twentieth Century Silk” and a couple of poker deals, and a “Thumb Tie” – still not on the market.

Now I returned to Colon to learn that my new friend had married and was building magic tricks with Blackstone. I told him what I had in mind and his mind started to work. In a couple of hours we had routined an hour of fast, fast magic, plus a few new (?) bits I was to do in selling. New props were made, such as a mind-reading act, using some of the best methods known then and NOW. The product cans were now “Foo Cans” – the “Blue Phantom” was now a piston from an automobile engine – the pitcher “Lota” was used in my oil story. Percy jumped in several times and we had more grand visits, and he always gave me helpful hints.

Now he and Recil Bordner are moved into an old barn and the loft is now a stage with the drop-lights, piano, and all – I was “On” most of the Open House and recall doing the comedy mind reading – “Letter From Brother Bill” – wire act – and several clown bits. Harry Cecil was Emcee on several shows – all for laughs.

Those Open Houses started with but 80 people and the first take was $80.00. Son after the first Open House, 1934, it became the “Get Together”, with a much larger orchestra. Duke Stern was now the solo violin and Gladys was at the piano.

Today the “Open House” is in my opinion the best of all conventions – and I’ve been on most of them. At this writing I’m told that over 500 have signed up, for this year, and you can bet another two or three hundred will show up. The little stage and few acts are now long gone. We are on for four nights with the best in magic – and many of the acts have played the best spots and TV shows. The 80 people of the first night would now find some thirteen hundred milling around the new High School – fighting to get in – Mrs. Wilma Rench at the Hammond organ plays the show with “Big Time” style and hits every cue.

Percy is gone, but as long as we have “Get Togethers” I will see him in the wing – watching the shows. It was his idea, and a good one that put Colon on the Map of Magic.

Now, Recil Bordner and Neil Foster in the Captain’s Chairs, we’ll go on and on to bigger shows, maybe a week stand.”

 

Monk appeared in Abbott’s Get-Together in 1942. 1944, 1946, 1957, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, and 1979. He wrote a long running column in Tops called “The Professional Touch”.  He died in 1981.

Abbott Magic Fire 1938, Percy Abbott

Abbott Magic Company Fire

 

From the TOPS Magazine, January 1953, by Percy Abbott “WITH THE EDITOR”: “No doubt by this time many of our friends and Magicians have learned of the happening at our plant here – the fire which destroyed our metal shop on November 15th.

Those of you tat have visited us here in Colon know that our buildings are separated, the metal shop being approximately 300 feet from the main building. At 4:00 a. m. on the date mentioned a fire broke out and, although the local and out-of-town fire brigades worked to save it, the building was completely demolished. The building housed all our lathes, milling machines, and equipment, partly completed stock, supplies of metal, etc. – in fact, it was a complete loss. Fortunately the fire brigades were able to save the nearby buildings and, best of all, no one was hurt.

 

 

I was out of town at the time and a long distance call at 5 o’clock in the morning cut my out-of-town visit short. When I got back here nothing could be done.

But these things happen, and within a week we had started reorganizing the metal shop in part of the wood shop. Of course it will take some time before the machinery and supplies are replaced but to date there has been very little delay on orders received. We fortunately carry large stocks and we also have our branch stores to help us out.

 

Hill Opera House, Tom Thinnes

Hill Opera House

 

 

From Marquee Magazine, by Tom Thinnes, Kalamazoo Gazette, COLON, Michigan – The 81-year-old Hill Opera House, being restored to its heyday when it spotlighted the greats of the world of magic, is open for public tours.

One of the community’s most historic buildings, the old opera house is actually the upper two floors of the Colon Citizens State Bank. After being sealed up for 14 years, the opera house started taking on some new trappings when some local citizens began a restoration effort.

The tours are being offered to give interested persons a chance to sample Colon’s history and unique place in the world of show business. In its prime, the Hill Opera House was the showcase for the magical talents of Harry Blackstone Sr., Harry Houdini and Percy Abbott, the founder of the company that still produces magic contraptions and tricks in this village today.

Opened in 1898, the theater-bank building was built by the Elisha Hill family, which has played a leadership role in the community for many years.

 

 

The opera house had seating for 450 patrons, including a horseshoe balcony which could handle 100 persons. The plush, padded seats in the front of the theater were separated by a long brass rail from the cheaper wooden box seats to the back. There were four white-and-gold private boxes looming over the 1,000 square foot stage.

 

 

 

For many years, The Great Blackstone tried out his new tricks at the opera house before taking them on the road to places like new York, London and Paris.

Then in the years after World War II, the theater fell into disuse, except for an occasional high school graduation ceremony.

In 1964, when the bank on the first floor of the building was remodeled, the great oak staircase leading up to the theater was removed and the opera house was left to gather dust. The restoration effort was launched last spring.

 

 

In these views of the Opera House interior one can note the astounding number of architectural features in a room so small. The use of plaster rosettes with light bulbs around the edges of the balcony, the mural over the proscenium, and those FOUR boxes!

Obviously the HILL OPERA HOUSE was truly first class for its day.

The Old Mill; Ralph Clement

      The Old Mill

Written June 28, 1967, by Ralph Clement: “The grist mill and a wooden dam were built in 1839. The building was located just west of the bridge on the north side. My first recollection of the property, about 1887, was the wooden dam with its gates which could be lowered or raised as necessary to keep the proper water level in Palmer Lake.  Gates to the wooden flume and millrace could also be opened and closed, and there were the big mill wheels which were run by falling water.

In the 1890’s , the floodgates were opened and Palmer Lake was lowered and the old wooden dam torn out. The new concrete dam was built under the direction of Aura Tomlinson. It had no floodgates but the water just spilled over the top. It was considered a big job well done.

The firs owners of the mill whom I can remember were Mr. Lamberson and Mr. Hollingshead. Mr. Lamberson had been a farmer while Mr. Hollingshead was a miller. Mr. Hollingshead’s two sons, Elwood  and Elsworth, worked in the mill. I can remember farmers with loads of wheat lined up a block long wait8ing for their “grist” to be ground. A bushel of wheat, 60 pounds, would “mill out” about 28 pounds of flour for the farmer, the remainder of the flour and the bran going to the miller for grinding the grist. After the turn of the century, and with the advent of the automobile and trucks, business slackened at the mill.

About that time, Mr. Hollingshead passed away, and Frank Lamberson came into the firm. Also, they hired I. K. Milland of Three Rivers, and experienced miller, and a fine man. Mr. Hollingshead’s interest in the firm was bought by Joseph (Big Joe) Farrand. Mr. Farrand was not active in the business, but kept close watch of his interest. About this time, Frank Lamberson, who had become manager of the mill, secured a contract to sell flour to a large wholesale grocery firm in the state of Maine. This enabled Frank to buy wheat on the market and keep the mill running at capacity. This connection lasted for many years until finally the wholesaler went out of business. By this time, conditions had greatly changed. Farmers no longer brought in their wheat to have it ground. Frank kept the mill running and ground feed.

However, the day of the country grist mill had passed. The mill was closed, and within a few years was wrecked and the site cleaned up.

Frank Lamberson had started working in the mill as bookkeeper when he was about 18 years old, and he soon became manager. He continued in that capacity until the mill was closed some 40 years later. When the mill was closed, he awarded a pension to several and this they drew as long as they lived. Under his management the grist mill had prospered.

 

Abbott Magic Company

JACKSON CITIZEN PATRIOT newspaper, April 6, 1936

 

Thriving Industry Wins Colon “City of Magic” Title

 

Abbot Firm is Magician’s Aid

 

Produces All Types of Wars for Art.

 

Magic Master and His “Gadget” Factory

 

Colon – Figuring out new and better ways to saw off a girl’s legs and chop off her head is really quite fascinating after you get used to the idea.

Most people might not see any fun in dismembering bodies but it makes a highly entertaining relaxation for tired nerves.

There’s an art to it, too. You can’t just go out and chop the head off without any advance preparations. That would be much too crude. You’ve got to do it with a finesse which takes a great deal of planning and practice but it’s great fun after you get the hang of it.

Ask Percy Abbott of Colon. He’s doing it right along and making genuine success out of it. The little town of Colon is scarcely a place where you’d look for this kind of business but that’s why Mr. Abbott likes it here. He has far fewer interruptions while at work than he would have in the cities for that reason can concentrate much better on the subject at hand.

That place where Mr. Abbott conducts the unique industry is called the Abbott Magic Novelty Co., the most versatile business of its kind in the United States and the only one of three. Approach to the Abbott plant may be a little disconcerting for the easily startled because of the skeletons seen in various poses on the outside walls of the building which is entirely black, but closer inspection reveals that these are only painted skeletons.

Romance

   Strangely enough, romance was the medium through which Mr. Abbott happened to get into the business of inventing and manufacturing head chopping and leg sawing boxes, among many other things. Born in Australia as the son of an English magician who believed in having his boy practice magic eight hours a day, Mr. Abbot spent all of his life until two years of age wandering across the stages of Europe, China, India and other lands making things vanish and appear to the mystification of black, yellow and white audiences. Then he came to the United States intending to stay but a short time and while here visited Colon to do a little vacation fishing. While there he met a girl and it was Mr. Abbott’s turn to erase himself from the stage.

 

 

To one who has no yen to associate with “spooks” a first glimpse of the Abbott magic factory at Colon might be rather disconcerting.

 

Today Mr. Abbott’s company is shipping the paraphernalia which magicians use to every land in the world as for example the head chopping, leg sawing box now under construction for a customer in the Straits Settlement at Singapore, this one being an improvement on the type long familiar in that act during which the magician seems to dismember the body of the girl inside, but of course really doesn’t.

Inside Mr. Abbot’s plant there’s everything from disappearing water glasses, collapsible flowers and multiplying golf balls to phony funnels, displayed in long counters on the first floor. On the same floor of the building also is located the machine shop. Mr. Abbott and his staff of 11 specially trained employees doing all of their own machine work and upstairs if a miniature theatre for demonstrations.

Memoirs

 

The bizarre decorations, featuring the skeletons on the outside of the place, which incidentally was formally a buggy factory, are carried out inside as well, predominated by curling, crawling lines of black which are almost as dizzying as the music going round and round, except that the lines don’t seem to come out anywhere. In Mr. Abbott’s office strange bill posters cover almost the entire wall space and among them are many in foreign languages even to Chinese, memoirs from his years of trouping here and there across the face of the globe.

Mrs. Abbott was the first spectator too the trick that led Mr. Abbott into the manufacture of magic. It’s called the “squash” and if you can figure it out you’re a magi yourself.  Mr. Abbott demonstrated it by placing a small liquor glass half full of water – and it’s really water – on a table. Then he places his hand, which you have seen nothing whatever over the glass and presses hard and there’s a squishy sound after which there isn’t any glass. No, it wasn’t under the table or up Mr. Abbott’s sleeve, because in a minute he pulls it from his pants leg. The next time he made it vanish in the palm of his hand, not more than two feet from the goggle eyed reporter’s nose and found it later in his pocket. Strange, isn’t it, how a glass will wander?”

 

Percy Abbott

 

More magic, thought the reporter who was now thoroughly convinced that Mr. Abbott would make the moon vanish if he was disposed against it.

“Fire”

But no, the whistle proved to be the fire alarm, and Mr. Abbott’s partner and first assistant rushed out to the building. “He’s the fire chief,” explained Mr. Abbott between counting the number of whistles to tell the location to which the towns’ volunteer fire department was being summoned.

The incident added to the incongruity of finding a magician in a small town far removed from the bright lights, but Mr. Abbott says he doesn’t miss the stage. One reason perhaps is a two-year-old son who already plays with a handkerchief and gurgles “tricks.”

“This is an ideal location,” Mr. Abbott said, “We don’t have the interruptions we would have in the city where we would be within easy reach of everybody. Our customers like to come here because it’s a change from metropolitan hubbub and they can do their buying in a leisurely fashion, chatting and exchanging ideas in the meantime as magicians like to do.”

But the magicians have no monopoly on magic. Many an ordinary dignified business man might be seen if you could surprise him in the privacy of his den, doing funny things with what looks like a lemon, or with some other gadget. You’d be judging him too hastily if you sent for a straightjacket before you determined whether he’s one of the thousands of businessmen, doctors, lawyers and others who have taken up magic as a hobby. The Abbott Company does not sell only to professional magicians, but also to hundreds of amateurs and semi-amateurs.

 

Skill

 

   The number of people learning the tricks of magic is increasingly astonishingly,” Mr. Abbott said. That’s good for our business, of course, and tends to give the magicians larger audiences. At the same time it demands more skill from us. Audiences are more keener than they used to be.”

Proof of how widespread the magic virus is was manifest a time ago when a minister visited Mr. Abbott asking for advice on ways and means of exposing spiritualists. He became so interested in the art of magic that he took it up, forsook the pulpit and is now trouping and doing quite well at it.

Besides his own plant the only manufacturing magic in this country, which Mr. Abbott knows about, are two small concerns, one in Chicago and the other in California. But Mr. Abbott is more than a manufacturer. He also is an inventor and anyone who thinks that magic is a standardized thing doesn’t know his Houdini. There are fads in it the same as in any line of business and a constant need for improvement.

For instance, Mr. Abbott explained, “The repeal of prohibition brought a revival of the night club and popularized the floor show. Working magic in the center of a floor with your audience seated all around you is decidedly more difficult that doing it on a stage where you have the advantage of background drapery and other effects. Floor show magic calls for what is known as self-contained illusions – that is, illusions which will be concealing and deceiving from any angle of view. Many card tricks and other slight of hand manipulations had to be eliminated.

 

Improvement

Mr. Abbott’s art is expressed in improving upon the equipment used in the past and to developing new tricks and new kinds of illusions. Last year he had under manufacture and development about 500 different kinds of tricks at one time and he is now in direct contact with approximately 5,000 magicians in all parts of the world who look to him for the creation of new ideas or the practical interpretation of their own suggestions.

The magicians who gather at Mr. Abbott’s place each fall – last year more than 250 attended – for an annual get-together, named Colon “the magic capital of the world.” And since Mr. Abbott gives periodical shows at which he experiments with his latest tricks on fellow residents of the town, Colon is no place to try the old shell game. The magic wise Colonites would laugh you back to the hinterland where they’re still chopping off heads and sawing off limbs in the old fashioned way.

 

The Abbott Magic Company. Recil Bordner became a partner in the Abbott Magic Novelty Company in 1934.

934.

 

Abbott Fire 1938

Disaster

 

From the Sturgis Daily Journal, September 19. 1938.

Fire Destroys Colon Magic Factory – OVER $10,000 DAMAGE DONE: SAVE SECRETS

 

Colon, Sept. 19 – There was no illusion about the flames that blazed from the home of Abbott’s Magic Novelty Company Saturday night at 9 o’clock resulting in an estimated $10,000 loss. Mystery does overshadow the destruction, however, as no on can trace the origin of the fire which started at the rear of the factory. Percy Abbott, head of the magic center, stated this morning the actual loss amounted to over $10,000, but that he was fortunate in that all of his records, secrets, and valuable manuscripts had been saved.

Though Mr. Abbott was out of the village at the time of the fire, employees of the factory saved all the documents in the office. The scene in Colon, the Magic Capital of the World, was considerably different Saturday night from that of a week previous when 500 magicians from all over the world gathered here for their annual convention and frolic. About 9 o’clock Saturday evening flames were seen at the rear of the Abbot factory. According to the report Mrs. Audrey Eggstaff, an employee at the magic institute, who resides next door, and several other residents of Colon discovered the fire at about the same time. A general alarm was given.

 

Walls are saved

With surprising rapidity, the volunteer firemen of Colon reached the scene of activity and despite the fact that the fire had a big start, the exterior of the building was saved. On the interior fire, smoke, and water resulted in complete destruction. On the first floor of the two-story frame building fire destroyed small tricks, materials used in their manufacture, and a considerable amount of expensive machinery, including a printing press. The press, except for rubber rollers and other combustible parts, can be salvaged and put back into use. On the second floor was a stage and auditorium where the illusions and stage routine was performed and practiced. In addition to this, fire destroyed stage properties, an upright piano, and an expensive stock of illusion cabinets and sense-befuddling  mechanisms.

 

Other Property Threatened

 

Because of the proximity of the Colon Hatchery on one side and the Eggstaff dwelling on the other, the fire threatened the entire resident block. P. W. Keesler, owner of the hatchery, stated that when the fire was first discovered it looked as though all the buildings were doomed. It took several hours for the firemen using water and chemicals to bring the conflagration under control and several times during the night small flames broke out anew and made it necessary for firemen to return.

 

To Rebuild Structure

 

Mr. Abbott is making plans for the construction of another factory building on the same location. It will be modern in every respect except for the front where the illuminated skeletons, used as the trademark, will be painted as on the old building. The work of cleaning out and salvaging has begun and the wrecking of the old building will start soon. Through the courtesy of Charles Correll, manager of the Lamb Knit Mills, the Abbott Magic Company has a temporary home in one of the warehouses where a showroom and office is being arranged. On the east side of Colon a temporary workshop has been set up where the printing press will be repaired. “Tops,” the magazine of magic, which is printed by the Abbott Company will be published as usual the first of the month, stated Mr. Abbott this morning. The magazine has over 3,500 circulation and is sent only to magicians as their regular trade journal.

 

Cause of Fire Unknown

 

Ted Ward, chief of the Colon fire department, and officials of the factory were unable to explain the cause of the fire. Smoking regulations inside the plant are very strict and Mr. Abbott, personally, closed up and inspected the shop at 5 o’clock, only four hours before the fire was discovered. A tank of gasoline exploded while the volunteers were extinguishing the fire giving the stubborn blaze added impetus. The building which was burned on the inside and scorched on the outside was insured at $1,000. This was the only insurance carried.

 

 

 

Colon is Capital

Colon is “Magic Capital of America”

 

From Historical Society records; a newspaper clipping, June 1946, source unknown: “town of 780 citizens is Famous for Equipment for Amateur and Professional Magicians. Very few people in Michigan know it, but the town of Colon, down near the Indiana border, has become famous all over the world as the “Home of Hocus Pocus” where articles and equipment for magicians are manufactured for sale all over the universe, to amateurs and professional disciples of legerdemain.

This village, 18 miles from a railroad, is the location of the Abbott Magic Novelty Company.

Percy Abbott, an Australian born magician, started it 18 years ago.

Here five busy workshops manufacture almost 1,800 different articles for magicians and sold mostly by mail. Volume of business is over $160,000 annually.

Percy Abbott, who founded the firm, is himself an old-time magician. He has performed before audiences in China, India, England, Egypt and many other countries.

After he had opened a supply shop for magicians in Australia in 1923, he traveled to America for a rest, and, liking to fish, came to Michigan. Here he met a Colon girl and they were married. Abbott decided to remain in Colon and so established his business there.

More than 50 residents of Colon are employed in the Abbott workshops, the other principle industry in the town being the Lamb Knit Goods Company.

At times, Abbott is so rushed to fill orders that Colon families are hired as sub-contractors to assemble bouquets of feather flowers and other handwork items.

Abbott invented many of the tricks he sells. He has a knack for adapting everyday objects to magical purposes. For inspiration he goes to Detroit or Chicago and shops in dime stores. Some of his most successful tricks, from the point of sales, use 10-cent gadgets from Woolworth’s.

Magicians seldom patent their tricks depending more on professional ethics for protection. To steal another man’s stunt would mean speedy ostracism in the magical world. If he particularly likes some effect trick another magicians is using, Abbott my offer to buy the manufacturing rights. Several topflight amateur magicians – one of them the millionaire presided of a locomotive concern – hand over to Abbott the exclusive distribution of their magical innovations in return for nothing more substantial than a line of acknowledgment in the catalogue.

Manufacture of magic calls for woodworking, blacksmith, paint and machine shops, plus a printing department and a sewing and silk-dyeing room. The business is conducted like almost any other factory, with workmen fabrication small parts in metal and wood while deft-fingered girls assemble and package them. Only in the shipping department does the gaudy glamour of magic become apparent. Stacked in tiers to the ceiling are boxes of nickel-plated, dyed, and painted apparatus – the stuff that baffles people from coast to coast and keeps young and old standing hypnotized before “magic stores.”

Abbott himself is a small, bespecled, graying man who wears a perpetually worried look and claims to go without sleep for days at a time.

In the showroom adjoining his factory is a full-sized stage where visiting wizards can try out a trick before buying it and where Abbott himself can keep in magical trim by occasionally sawing a woman in half.”